Bruges is located in the Northwest corner of Belgium and 12 miles from the English Channel. It is known as the Venice of the North. When we tell someone we are going to Bruges their reply is something like, “Oh, we love Bruges, it’s so cute”. Yes, it’s “cute”, however it is also a great beer city with many specialty beer bars. Given the fact that there are four million visitors to this city each year, and a large majority of them are beer travelers, we realize there aren’t too many beer bars that are “hidden gems”, however we’ve compiled a list of our ten favorites.
HINT: “Bieren Van het Vat” translates to beer from the tap
Open 7 days
The Grote Markt, or town square, dates some five hundred years with the Belfry surrounded by restaurants, bars, shops, and former trade buildings. One of those buildings houses Historium, a unique interactive and special effects tourist experience for learning Belgian Medieval history. Located above Historium is Duvelorium Grand Beer Café developed by brewer Duvel Moortgat and designed with tradition and craftsmanship in mind. Outside is a patio with a commanding view of the Markt.
When we first walked in, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the atmosphere created by the design features using brass, wood, and stained glass, and the swag is blended seamlessly into the floorplan. Inside you can drink the best beers of Belgium including Duvel, Vedett, A’Chouffe, Liefmans, and De Koninck. It’s a fantastic place to taste and drink any of these beers. Although he was busy tending to a tour group, we soon met our server, and manager Bjorn. Despite the many thirsty travelers he remained pleasant and quickly served us our first beers. We chose to enjoy The Duvel Triple Hop, brewed with Saaz, Syrian Goldings, and Mosaic hops. In between tour groups, Nina got a chance to jump behind the bar and get a one on one lesson from Bjorn in the proper technique to tap a beer. She passed the test and was rewarded with drinking her pours. The experience was “Duvelicious”. Duvelorium opened in November of 2012 so we consider this something new in the city.
Rose Red Café
open 7 days
Near the Markt, and away from most of the tourists the Rose Red Cafe is located within the Cordoeanier Hotel. Named after a Stephen King story, the ceiling is covered with fake red roses. That’s slightly tacky, but it looks good. The staff is well educated in the beer menu. There are both a small bar and tables, along with an outdoor patio area. There are five beers on tap. We asked the bartender what we “have to have” while here. He recommended the Embrasse from Brouwerij Dochter van de Korenaar. It’s a small brewery that does not deliver its beer, the bar owner must go and pick it up. But the beer delivered big flavors. Embrasse was a limited release, strong dark ale aged in Isle peated oak whiskey barrels at 9%. Nice tan head with big flavors of cocoa, dried fruits and slightly smoky.
This is the kind of beer bar where the conversation centers on beer and it’s not unusual for other people in the bar to join in the conversation. Which is exactly what happen! Late in the afternoon we met a couple from Texas and began to swap travel and beer stories. Listening near us was what we thought was a local from Bruges. He soon joined in the conversation which progressed to all of us sharing rounds of beer. Eventually the session ended and emails were exchanged. The next day we received an email invite for tapas and drinks from our new friend and his wife at their home. Thank you Rose Red for creating such a convivial atmosphere, and thank you Dirk and Greta, we had a spectacular evening!
closed Mondays opens at 5
Le Trappiste opened in May of 2013, a franchise of an English concept. During the daytime it is marked by two large wooden doors brightly painted. There are no windows to look in because it’s a Kelder Café, or cellar café. Come back at night and the wooden doors slide open and a stone staircase leads into a 13th Century cellar!
A visit is a must, just to see the place. The walls are stone, the vaulted ceiling is brick supported with stone arches and columns. Dimly lit, the atmosphere is perfect for tasting Trappist Beers. The bottle list of 100 was impressive with craft beers from Norway, Denmark, Holland, USA, and the UK. There are 10 tap lines plus two dedicated to guest beers for special occasions.
We met co-owner Regnier while he was busy behind the taps. He described to us a quick history of the place. Nina introduced her Hops Jewelry to him and he was so impressed he suggested to her to show her jewelry to customers in the cellar. That was so generous of him to do that. Thank you Regnier, and by the way, congratulations on your one year anniversary!
closed Monday & Tuesday
Celebrating 500 years in 2015 this pub can’t be missed. A fifteen minute walk from the Markt across the outer canal it’s off the beaten path. But you’ll be glad you came. In the warm weather you can sit outside in the back yard or in the cold weather you can huddle up to the wood burning stove. Its main room is large and bright with wooden tables, friendly staff, and good food. There are three beers on tap and about twenty in the bottle. Old time regulars read their newspapers and comfortably mix in with the twenty-somethings on a bike tour.
We enjoyed lunch with our beers more than once during our stay in Bruges. The chef and current owner are celebrating sixteen years together. While we wait for our lunch, we notice the family dog roams around like the “manager” and testing to see if anyone will ignore the large poster with his face on it that reads, “Do Not Feed the Dog”. Of course we notice a few rule breakers and a very happy dog. You can’t blame him when you taste their grilled cheese sandwich topped with Bolognese sauce! What a great idea. The beer on special was the Straffe Hendrick “Wild” 2014, brewed by De Halve Maan, a Bruges brewery. Wild is 9%, a tripel with Brettanomyces yeast strains added. What a perfect match and a perfect day.
They are open when they are there
It maybe our favorite find in Bruges. Located in the NE part of the city near the outer canals,‘t Terrastje is midway on a walk to visit the windmills on the canal. It’s small, painted bright red, with an inviting terrace and several tables. The sign that welcomes you jokes about when they may be open and may be closed. On a sunny day sit on the terrace and people watch. Treat yourself to the tasty food from the menu. Inside there are six seats at the bar, five beers on tap, and a well-rounded bottle list. The couple who own it bought it while on holiday from their “boring” jobs and were feeling they needed a change. Ian is from England and Patricia from Holland, and will joke around with you if you start a conversation.
We were fortunate to find two corner seats at the bar. Nina started with a Popperinge Hommelbier. Full of flavor and fresh hops it is flowery but not bitter like a traditional American IPA. Soon a local couple arrives and we are introduced. They are quick to inform us they are regulars here and that we are sitting in their seats. Oh, okay here we go, we’ve heard about the joking, sarcasm, and ribbing that goes on here. Well, I hope they enjoyed their new view from their new favorite seats! We returned a few days later and spotted our new acquaintances and were treated as if we had been friends for life. They were quick to point out that they were back in their regular seats! The laughing continued where we had left off from our last visit and it felt special to be recognized in a Bruges café.
De Garre 1
open 7 days
Located a short walk from the Markt along Briedelstraat, an old iron gate marks the entrance leading into a very narrow alley. Down the alleyway about fifty meters is a wooden door, a brick staircase, and sign indicating De Garre. The building is from the 1600’s, and has three levels. The menu offers some small plates of food, and has about 50 beers by the bottle. The feature on tap is the De Garre Tripel, a house-pour at 9%. It was served in a special logo glass and was a good example of the style.
Upon entering the first level there is a small service bar and a crowded arrangement of tables. Move to the back of the room and find a narrow winding wooden staircase to the second floor mezzanine. Here, maybe you’ll get lucky with another service bar and more tables. Still can’t find a seat? Continue up the staircase to the third floor and pray for the seat next to the open window! Call us lucky because that is where we end up.
The service is stylish, and the servers get a workout here. Our waitress was from Poland and wanted to practice her English. So she was happy to check back on us several times. We enjoy the proper Belgian beer service that we find throughout the country. That is the tradition of getting served your beers with a matching glass and bottle set, atop a personal silver tray, with a doilie and a complimentary snack such as cheese or nuts. Voila! It’s even more impressive to get this service up on the third floor! Enjoy the exploration to find De Garre and drink in the atmostphere.
I like the feel of this place which reminded me of a general store. A long bar made of wood planks, the walls filled with beer signs, a meat slicer on a stand, dry sausages hanging, and refrigerators behind the bar holding the kegs. Copper tap handles and chalkboard menus clearly explain what is currently on tap. There are 12 draft beers only, the collection changes every month, depending on the time of the year, so they are flexible to serve you the best ones at that moment.
The food menu is concise and a good presentation is made on cutting boards. The chacuterie was a pretty sight and more than plentiful! Order the proscuitto, and watch them slice it thin as paper right in front of you. Hanging over the bar are different dry sausages such as boar, duck, blueberry, and nuts. There is plenty of food and beer to keep you happy here.
We were pleasantly greeted by Irene and enjoyed conversation about Florida and Bruges. As it turns out, we had met her brother Jon a few nights earlier at Restaurant Cafedral. When he learned of our love for beer, he recommended Bieratelier and drew us a map to get there. The rewards are endless when you build a good reputation.
closed Tuesday and Wednesday opens at 4pm
‘t Brugs Beertje first opened its doors in 1983 and has been serving up excellent Belgian brews and atmosphere ever since. Owner and creator Daisy Claeys has become famous with her “Little Bear” in the beer world achieving world class ratings annually. There are five beers on tap which change quickly, and about 300 in the bottle. This is a menu where you can chose a beer you have wanted to taste but couldn’t find, or chose a beer you never heard of before. The bar seats about ten and fills up quickly when they open at 4pm. There is a side room by the bar and a second room in the back. The staff is fluent in beer talk, and the conversation amongst the guests is the same. A special beer on tap during our visit was Novice Triple Black IPA. This really grabbed Nina’s attention because she loves this style and it’s rare to find in Belgium. Brewed by Malheur, it was 8.5%, and delicious. Bill enjoyed one of those hard to find beers, Belle-Fleur from Brouwerij Dochter van de Korenaar, a dry hopped American style IPA of 6%. This was from the small brewery we discovered at Café Rose Red.
Typically the conversation and the soothing music are what fill the air here. While sitting at the bar we heard the bartender say, under his breath, the bar is closing early tonight. Why, we asked. He laughingly snickers at the dozen or so Irish girls who break into a traditional sing-along, raising their glasses, and swaying to the melody as their voices pierce this usually calm and sedate Belgian beer bar. Lucky for them it was really ten minutes to closing, or I think they may have had to continue the song outside!
open 7 days
Cambrinus is often mentioned in student songs as the King of Beer (long before Bud ) in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. In this historical building, dating from 1699, you’ll find him two times. The first time as a statue sitting on a large vat, holding a foaming mug of beer in his hand, on the corner of the façade and the second time engraved in a glass window on the side of the house, again sitting on a vat and accompanied by a lady.
The beer menu at Cambrinus is biblical in size with a wooden cover, several hundred bottles listed and the inventory is well maintained. This restaurant/bar is larger than most of the other places on our list which allows for more happy eaters and beer lovers. If you enjoy food as much as the beer like we do this is the place. It serves a full food menu, and many items are cooked with beer. How about Flemish Carbonades prepared with “Gulden Draak”, or chicken, mushrooms, onions and bacon cooked in a Flemish “Oud Brown Beer”, or fish stew with the local beer “Bruges Zot”? Come a few times…it’s all good. New beers are always arriving. We enjoyed the Queue de Charrue, a Tripel from Ploegsteert, which was well balanced and delicious.
If you’re serious about buying bottles of beer to take home or drink in your hotel room, you can’t beat the prices at the local market. The variety may be limited, but how can you pass up a St. Bernardus 12 at 1.64 Euro? Check it out! There are plenty of touristy beer stores, but you’ll notice the price differential. But then again, why would you travel all the way to Belgium to sit in your room and drink just to save four bucks?
Spending twelve days in Bruges was a dream of ours since we first found this “cute” city about six years ago. Like others before us we looked forward to blending into and calling it our home for a brief time. The city known for its royalty, diamonds, waffles, lace, chocolates, frites and beer, has a reputation for changing people’s lives. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the beers we serve at Stuff Yer Face and think about the influences of where they come from and why they taste so good. And maybe, you too will be inspired to visit this charming and timeless city in Europe.